Illinois Driver’s License Classes (A Complete Guide)

Illinois Driver’s License Classes (A Complete Guide)

What driver’s license class do you need?

Class D?

Class A?

Class M?

If you have no idea what we’re talking about, then it’s time to understand the Illinois driver’s license classifications. 

Because, yes, you’ll have to choose one if you get a license. 

Now, in this article, we’ll detail all the classes for you. Plus, we’ll show you how to get each one. 

So let’s dive right in!

What are the Driver’s License Classes in Illinois?

There are 6 different types of driver’s licenses in Illinois, namely:

  • Class A CDL
  • Class B CDL
  • Class C CDL
  • Class D
  • Class M
  • Class L

Let’s see the difference between all these classes. 

Class A CDL

With a Class A CDL, you can operate combination vehicles, such as 18-wheelers, semis, and big rigs. To qualify as a Class A vehicle, the combination truck must have a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or heavier, and the towed unit should weigh more than 10,000 pounds.

Class B CDL

You need a Class B CDL if you’re driving a commercial vehicle that meets either of these:

  • It’s a single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or heavier
  • It’s a combination vehicle with a GCWR of 26,001 or more but tows a unit that weighs less than 10,000 pounds.

Examples of these are large buses, such as city or tourist buses. 

Class C CDL

You need a Class C CDL if your vehicle meets any of these criteria:

  • It has a GVWR of more than 16,000 pounds but less than 26,001 pounds, whether or not it’s towing a unit. If it does, the latter must weigh less than 10,000 pounds.
  • Designed to carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver.
  • Used to transport hazardous materials in quantities that require your vehicle to bear a placard.

Class D 

Class D is your basic driver’s license. The one you use to get to and from work, school, or anywhere else. 

To be more specific, it is used to drive any vehicle that weighs less than 16,000 pounds and doesn’t require a commercial driver’s license.

Class M and L

These are the driver’s licenses covering all motorcycles and motor-driven cycles in Illinois.

This time, it’s not the weight that determines which license you need — it’s the displacement.

You need a Class L license if you have a motor-driven cycle with a displacement of less than 150cc. Anything higher than that needs a Class M license.

A Class M also works when you’re operating a motorcycle.

How to Get A Class D License in Illinois

Since it’s the most common type of driver’s license in Illinois, knowing how to get your Class D license is essential. Some begin the process as soon as they turn 15 years old.

If so, the road to a Class D license involves 3 phases:

  • Earning an instruction permit
  • Getting an initial driver’s license
  • Having a full driver’s license

Let’s quickly go over each phase. 

Earning your instruction permit

The first thing you need to take care of is your instruction permit. Follow the following steps to get it:

  1. Prepare the necessary documents to present at a Secretary of State facility. Click here to see a complete list of what you can bring.
  1. Enroll in a driver’s ed course. You don’t need to finish it when you apply for a permit, but you must show proof of enrollment.
  1. Choose which Secretary of State facility you want to visit. Click here to see a complete list. Note that some officers require you to make an appointment, while others don’t.
  1. Make your parent or legal guardian go with you. Part of the application process is them giving their consent for you to have your permit.
  1. Get an application form (you can only find this in a facility) and fill it out. 
  1. Pass the vision test.
  1. Pay the $20 permit fee.
  1. Pass the written exam.
  1. Receive your temporary instruction permit. You will receive your plastic one via mail within 15 days. 

Once you have your instruction permit, you can begin practicing how to drive. However, don’t forget about the restrictions:

  • Only drive between 6 am to 10 pm from Mondays to Thursdays. You can drive from 6 am to 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. 
  • You can only drive when supervised by a licensed driver at least 21 years old
  • You can’t use texting devices, like a mobile phone, when driving. Yes, this includes hands-free devices. 

Getting your initial driver’s license

You must have your permit for at least 9 months before applying for an initial driver’s license. Before anything else, though, ensure the following:

  • You don’t have any traffic violations on your record
  • You’ve completed your driver’s ed course (both classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction)
  • You’ve complied with the required practice hours — that’s 50 hours of driving, 10 of which must be at night.

If you can check off these three, here are your next steps:

  1. Visit a Secretary of State facility. As always, check whether or not you need to make an appointment first.
  1. Show the following documents:
  1. Pass the driving test using your vehicle. Don’t forget to bring your registration and insurance papers.
  1. Receive your temporary initial license. Your secure hard card license arrives by mail within 15 days.

You can already drive unsupervised with an initial license. However, time and texting device restrictions are still in place.

There are also guidelines regarding passengers. You can only have one passenger younger than 20 while you drive, except if they’re immediate family.

Having your full driver’s license

This part is easy. Getting your driver’s license requires surrendering your initial license in exchange for your temporary Class D license.

If your permit is still active (instruction permits in Illinois remain valid for two years), you won’t have to pay a separate license fee. If it isn’t valid anymore, you’ll have to pay $5 if you’re between 18 and 20, $30 if you’re between 21 and 68, and $5 if you’re between 69 and 80.

The only restriction you have now is the one on mobile devices. It will apply until your 19th birthday.

How to Get Class A, B, and C License in Illinois

The great thing about commercial licenses is that, even if there are multiple classes, there is only one process when securing them.

Like a Class D license, you also need to get a permit before you can receive your license. Let’s go through the steps.

Getting your Commercial Learner’s Permit

Here are the steps to getting a commercial learner’s permit (CLP):

  1. Decide whether you need a Class A, B, or C CDL.
  1. Meet all the requirements for a CDL application:
    •  You are at least 18 (if operating intrastate) or 21 years old (if operating interstate)
    • You have a valid Class D driver’s license
    • Your driving privileges are not suspended, canceled, revoked, or disqualified
    • You passed a physical examination conducted by a Medical Examiner on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME).
    • You have proof of legal presence
  1. Visit a Secretary of State facility. Don’t forget to check whether or not you need to set an appointment.
  1. Bring the following documents:
    • Your unexpired Class D driver’s license
    • A driving record check
    • Proof of your legal presence
    • A valid Medical Examiner’s certificate
  1. Pass a vision test.
  1. Pay for the $50 permit fee.
  1. Pass the written exam.
  1. Receive your CLP.

Getting Your Commercial Driver’s License

You can get your CDL by following these steps:

  1. Complete the Entry-Level Driver Training program from FMCSA. Ensure that your provider is in their registry.
  1. Wait until you’ve had your CLP for at least 14 days.
  1. Make an appointment to take your skills/drive test. You can do this by phone (call 217 785 3013 and choose option 4) or online.

NOTE: Make sure the facility you choose administers the exam for your CDL Class.

  1. Prepare the following:
    • Your CMV that complies with the requirements of your CDL Class
    • Your CMV’s insurance papers, registration, and proof of current safety inspection  
    • Your valid permit and Class D license
    • Receipts for your CLP or written exam
  1. Pass the skills/drive test.
  1. Get your CDL.

How to Get A Class M and L License in Illinois

Finally, let’s look at how to get a motorcycle license in Illinois. Like commercial licenses, there’s only one process to get a Class M and L license.

Getting Your Motorcycle Permit

You also need to get a permit before a full license, and you can begin the process as soon as you turn 16. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Decide which motorcycle license you need. Class L is for a motor-driven bicycle with a displacement of less than 150cc. Everything else requires a Class M.
  1. Be enrolled in the following DOT-approved courses:
    • Motorcycle Rider Education course 
    • Motorcycle training course
  1. Visit a Secretary of State facility and present acceptable IDs.
  1. Pass a vision test.
  1. Pay the $10 permit fee.
  1. Pass the written exam for both Class D and motorcycle licenses.
  1. Receive your temporary license. The Secretary of State’s office will send the permanent one within 15 days. 

Motorcycle permits remain valid for 24 months for applicants younger than 18. If you’re 18 or older, its validity lasts for 12 months.

You can use this time to practice riding a motorcycle or a motor-driven bicycle. However, a rider with a valid Class M license must accompany you. They also must have had a motorcycle license for at least a year.

Getting Your Motorcycle License

Before your permit expires, complete the following steps so you can get your Class L/M license:

  1. Visit a Secretary of State Facility and present valid IDs.
  1. Provide proof that you completed the Motorcycle Rider Education Course.
  1. Pass the driving exam.

NOTE: If you’re 18 or older, presenting a Motorcycle Rider Course Card allows you to skip the driving exam. However, younger applicants must still complete it.

  1. Receive your temporary Class L/M license. You’ll receive the permanent one through the mail within 15 days

Wrapping Things Up

And that was all the Illinois driver’s license classifications — from commercial licenses, the regular license, to motorcycle licenses. 

We covered them all!

Now that you know which class you need and how to get it, you won’t be confused with these things anymore. 

So what are you waiting for?

Apply for your Illinois driver’s license class today!

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